Wolves Eliminate Nuggets Following Historic Comeback

Minnesota appeared to be dead in the water. The upstart Wolves trailed by as many as 20 points in last night’s Game 7. At halftime, the reigning champion Denver Nuggets led by 15 points. The final 24 minutes felt like they were going to be a celebration for the home team. Instead, the Wolves mounted a historic comeback.

Denver quickly scored five points coming out of halftime to extend its lead to 58-38 with 10:50 remaining. Over the next 11 minutes and change, however, the Wolves went on a 32-9 run to seize the lead. Minnesota’s run was spurred by a handful of players.

With Anthony Edwards struggling from the field throughout the game (6-of-24), the Wolves relied upon their depth to lead the way to victory. Karl-Anthony Towns (23 points and 12 rebounds) and Jaden McDaniels (23 points on 7-of-10 from the field) were spectacular. Rudy Gobert was stellar defensively and contributed huge baskets in the fourth quarter. Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid was lethal off the bench. And, veteran guard Mike Conley drilled a pair of crucial threes down the stretch.

“I just want these guys to understand. I don’t think they understand what they just did,” Conley said. “Accomplishing what they have and getting to the West Conference finals is a great opportunity. Don’t take it for granted. Celebrate the moment now, but be ready to go. You have another team waiting for you. Everybody’s in the way of your goals, so you have to be ready to go.”

Denver’s collapse was jarring. A few weeks after completing a stunning 20-point comeback at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champs were on the wrong end of a historic collapse — falling 98-90. Three-time MVP Nikola Jokic congratulated Minnesota following the loss and also acknowledged what may be ahead for the two top teams.

“I mean, I think they’re built to beat us,” Jokic said. “Just look at their roster. They have basically two All-Stars, two probably first-team defensive players. Mike Conley is the most underrated player in the NBA, probably. From the bench, they have a Sixth Man of the Year. … [They are] one team that they can do literally everything. They can be big, small.”

Denver coach Mike Malone had a few feisty moments in his postgame presser — and ultimately gave Minnesota credit while simultaneously giving his team an excuse for falling short.

“The better team won, so I’m taking nothing away from Minnesota … but mentally, emotionally, physically, I think guys are gassed. They’re dead tired. They gave me everything I could ever ask for, and that’s why as much as this hurts, I’ll walk out of this building tonight with my head held very high.”